Rejecting Afghanistan’s Gift – Part One

Niaz Mohammad Hussaini worked for the Canadian Forces as an interpreter during the war, at great risk to himself and his family. When he needed Canada the most, he was turned away.

Afghan interpreter for Canada during Afghanistan war denied entry into Canada

On June 7th, Niaz Hussaini landed in Victoria, British Columbia aboard a flight from his home in California. He was coming to visit his friend Canadian veteran Sgt.(ret.) Mike Rude. Once inside the airport however he was informed that he would not be allowed into the country. The reason: last minute arrangements and a lack of time to process his paperwork.

This was not this first time Canada had refused entry to Niaz. In 2011 Niaz was working as an interpreter for the Canadian Forces in Kandahar, Afghanistan when he applied to come to Canada under a program that began in late 2009. In February, 2011, one month before the Canadian mission in Afghanistan came to an end, Niaz was fired, being told he was a danger to the mission.

Afghan interpreters have high hopes for relocation plan

This is the story of Niaz Hussaini, an interpreter from Afghanistan who lost both legs below the knee in an explosion while working for the Canadian military in Kandahar. It gives us a glimpse into the life of the “average” Afghani family, and shows how people and families everywhere are all very much alike.

In order to give this piece some context, I will provide you with a brief overview of the history and politics af Afghanistan. Like every TV sports color analyst has said at least once, you don’t know who the players are without a program.


Image result for afghanistan 1986 public domain image

The story of today’s Afghanistan goes back to 1955 when the Soviet Union granted a request from the prime minister, Prince Mohammad Daoud. for military aid. This would come shortly after the United States had rejected a similar request from Daoud.

Close ties developed between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union, and in 1956 Soviet influence became evident when women began to enter to workforce and the government. In 1965 the Afghan Communist Party was formed and in 1973 Daoud Khan and the Afghan Communist Party head up a successful military coup. The Republic of Afghanistan is established after Khan abolishes the monarchy and declares himself president.

Khan would himself be killed in a coup in 1978, the victim of a plot within the Communist Party itself. The new president, Babrak Karmal, then signed a treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union. Shortly after this came the birth of the mujahideen (plural of “those at jihad”), the resistance movement that would go on to face the Soviets after they invaded Afghanistan in 1979, in an effort to keep the communist regime propped up.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend

During the time of the Cold War, the Soviets were enemy number one in the eyes of the United States. They were the only enemy really, so stopping them wherever they ventured in the world was a key concern for the U.S., in order to keep the communist threat at bay.

This would lead to a number of proxy wars between the two superpowers over the years,with the war in Afghanistan being the final one. It would come to be known as “Russia’s Vietnam”, as the Soviets began to suffer heavy losses against the guerilla army, and would contribute to the ultimate downfall of the U.S.S.R..

The mujahideen were fighters that came from all over Afghanistan, drawn together in jihad to remove the infidel communists from the country once and for all. Men from different tribal areas would fight together with a single purpose in mind. Although passionate, these fighters were poorly trained, lightly equipped, had no combat experience, and had no leadership.

The United States would support the mujahideen by providing weapons and training through the CIA, with the Stinger anti-aircraft missile becoming valuable asset in their arsenal much to the dismay of Soviet pilots.

The CIA was also funding a program called “Operation Cyclone”, which began to train a group of mujahideen in neighbouring Peshawar, Pakistan. One of the men involved was a young Saudi who was the heir to his family’s construction empire, Osama bin Laden. After the Soviets had left Afghanistan for good, he would go on to form the terrorist organization Al Qaeda, which is Arabic for “The Base”.

Map of Afghanistan

Niaz Mohammad Hussaini

Niaz Mohammad Hussaini was born in 1986, in a village near Lashkargah in Helmand province to a police officer father and a mother who was a full-time homemaker. His father, Mohammad Hussain Andiwal, is a retired police officer with 45 years of proud and honourable service to his country.

His father is a man not unlike many you will find in countries around the world, a man who does what he does for the betterment of the society he lives in. He wasn’t driven by ideology or creed, but instead by the universal notion of justice and the rule of law and order within a society. He was just an average guy who wanted to live his life and raise a family, things that men from countries around the world can relate to.

He wouldn’t be allowed this however. When Niaz was about a year old, the mujahideen attempted to assassinate his father by planting a bomb at their front door. Instead of killing Andiwal, the blast took the life of his firstborn (Niaz’ older brother), and severely injured his second child (Niaz’ older sister).

For Niaz’ mother, the blast would prove to be devastating psychologically, and its impact would become apparent. Not so for Niaz’ father, as Mohammad Andiwal would do what his culture demanded of him by not openly expressing his feelings.

After the Soviets Pulled Out

The last Soviet troops in Afghanistan pulled out in early 1989 and the country was in the control of a group of mujahideen. It wasn’t long before fighting had started to break out among the various factions, and Afghanistan would descend into a chaotic free for all between competing warlords.

Going into the early ’90’s, Niaz and his family were able to live comfortably by Afghani standards because of his father’s position within the government of the day. This would essentially mean having enough food to eat and water to drink for the entire family. It was by no means lavish, but their essential needs were met, which could not be said of all Afghanis.

The civil war would eventually make its way into Helmand, and the invading mujahideen ransacked the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah. All the schools were shut down, they killed every government employee within sight, and set alight every piece of government property that would catch fire.

Nimruz province.

Shortly after the mujahideen took control of Helmand, the family moved west to neighboring Nimruz province. There, Niaz’ father would open a grocery store and once again be able to provide a comfortable life for his family. They would be there for three years when malaria, which had been on the rise in Nimruz, would force the family to separate. While Niaz and his father stayed in Nimruz to earn money, the rest of the family moved back to Helmand where they would have greater access to a physician and adequate medications to treat malaria, things that were not available in Nimruz.

Hated by everyone.–_circa_2001-09.jpg

A number of different ethnic groups live in Afghanistan, speaking a number of different languages. The 2004 Afghanistan constitution recognizes fourteen different ethnic groups that speak ten different languages.

The largest of these groups is Pashtun, who are “ethnic” Afghani’s. The country gets its name from the Persian for “Place of the Pashtuns”. According to estimates, the Pashtun make up approximately 48% of the population of Afghanistan, which is thought to be about 38 million by the U.N.

Things in Nimruz had become difficult for Mohammad Hussain Andiwal after his family returned to Helmand. By this time the Taliban had taken control of most of the country, including Nimruz. The Taliban hated him because he had worked under the former communist government at the time the Soviets invaded, and so they viewed him as a communist and a kafir (an infidel). The mujahideen (who were fighting the Taliban) also wanted him dead for the same reasons, on top of the fact that Mohammad Andiwal was Pashtun, and the majority of mujahideen in Nimruz were not Pashtun. There were very few places that were safe for him, and so eventually father and son also went back to Helmand province.

Finally reunited the family once again began to work their farm, earning money from the milk, yogurt, and butter their livestock provided to help care for one of Niaz’s younger sisters who was recovering from malaria. She had required surgery as a result of it and was left with intestinal problems. At around that time Niaz started working as a tailor’s apprentice to earn money to buy bread for his family.

Arrested By The Taliban.

Image result for mullah mohammed omar
Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, believed to have died from TB in 2013

There were few places in Afghanistan that Mohammad Andiwal would be safe, including Helmand, and the Taliban would ultimately get their hands on him, arresting him for the usual reasons. He was accused of being a communist and an infidel and was thrown into prison where he was beaten and tortured on a daily basis and frequently deprived of food and water. This went on for a month until Niaz was able to sell their farm, livestock, and most of their possessions to secure his father’s release from his cruel captors.

Andiwal was in bad shape, but his family feared that he might disappear if he was taken to a hospital. So, he was treated at home, and Niaz became the sole breadwinner for his family. He attended school for a couple hours in the morning, skipping many days, then headed to the tailor shop to work until sunset. After sunset he worked at a construction job that a friend of his father’s got him. For the next 2 years, he would get whatever work he could find, seasonal, day labour, tailoring, pretty much anything that would allow him to earn a wage to support his family, and give him a sense of honor and pride.

The Taliban Are Forced Out

Niaz had graduated high school around the time the Taliban regime was being removed by the U.S. in the wake of September 11th. He began working for the Helmand province Directorate of Agriculture, Livestock, and Irrigation, and his father had once again joined the ranks of the police force, serving as the education officer at police headquarters. Andiwal would later work for the Interior Ministry in the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (KPRT) and it was then that he was able to convince his son to become a police officer.

In 2004, impressed by his command of English, members of the PRT approached Niaz as he went to attend the police academy in Kandahar and not long after, he was extended an invitation to work as a translator by the PRT commander. Later that year he would go to Kandahar to apply for a job as a translator with the Provincial Reconstruction Team and would soon after be working for them.

In 2005 Canada took over the PRT and requested that the translators stay behind instead of moving on with the American troops. Niaz and the rest accepted the offers and they all signed contracts with the Canadian forces.

For Niaz Hussaini, life would never be the same.

To be continued……

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